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Give Yourself the Green Light

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Give Yourself the Green Light

Published 1954

Advocacy film produced to garner public support for the creation of the Interstate Highway System.

Run time 24:07
Producer Handy (Jam) Organization
Sponsor General Motors Corporation, Department of Public Relations
Audio/Visual Sd, C


EXPRESSES NEED TO MODERNIZE AMERICA'S ANTIQUATED HIGHWAY SYSTEM. SHOWS FRUSTRATED DRIVERS (WHO TURN INTO SHEEP), EXCELLENT STREET AND HIGHWAY DRIVING SEQUENCES. CITY SKYLINES AND COUNTRY SCENICS. Well-made corporate propaganda advocating better roads and highways; part of the lobbying process that led to the passage of the Federal Aid-Highway Act of 1956, the authorization for the Interstate Highway system.

Drawing of trafic light with yellow caution light colored in, then red, then green
Film titles
Aerial shot of expressway, camera pans up road until it gets to aerial view of interchange
Fades to VS/CU cars driving, CU of traffic light turning red, quick shot of cars stopping
Camera zooms into detailed highway map of United States
Pans areas, most notably Poughkeepsie, New York
VS cars driving on highways
CU white-walled tire & wheel of red car driving on dirt road
Shot of road from moving car - dirt road
Shot of paved road from moving car

CU waving red flag
MCU highway maintenance men working on road out of back of yellow pickup truck
VS men working on dirt road - sweeping
CU man leaning out car with cigarette hanging out of mouth

CU shovelful of black tar (looks like caviar)
CU man's face leaning out car window
CU Smoothing down black tar
CU red flag
CU yellow truck & orange tractor on road
MCU white truck driving down road
CU from back of 1 large tire of tractor
VS tractor & white truck alternating until 2 vehicles meet on road

Yellow school bus enters from left
VS schoolbus - opening doors, picking up kids, interior
CU Main Street-type road; from window above street man peers out
VS/CU Cars moving down street

CU adding machine
Shot of parking lot
MCU Man in window, sign: FREE PARKING
Shot from above of town intersection
CU cars driving through town
VS of mother & young daughter in car, intercut with things they see - i.e. book
return bin, fire hydrant, etc.
Mother misses parking space; someone jumps in ahead of her

CU watch on wrist
CU man's hand pressing car horn
MCU back of produce truck
VS produce market area with lots of vehicles (this is downtown San Francisco, in an area which is now known as the Golden Gateway or Embarcadero Center)
CU flock of sheep, fades into traffic jam
VS cars inching upward
VS/CU individual faces of people caught in traffic jam (voiceover is all about their attempt to escape the troubles and anxieties of urban life by migrating to the suburbs, but they get caught in a perpetual traffic jam..."what's a citizen to do?")

Camera pans to headline for GM "Good Roads" Essay Contest
VS literature on contest
VS typewriters typing
CU letters being poured out of mailbag
LS B/W footage of man at podium before crowd, CUT TO man (Robert Moses, winner of contest) standing up as crowd applauds. He walks to podium
CU Award to Robert Moses
CU Moses speaking at podium
VS roads & overpasses being built
View from above of town with lots of cars

Camera pans row of orange parking meters
MCU outside of tiered parking lot
MCU Parking lot (full)
VS people working on road

View up at cars on overpass
VS Cars driving, people sitting on promenade (Brooklyn Heights Promenade built over Brooklyn-Queens Expressway), various other buildings and facilities designed around the automobile
Camera zooms up to toll booth of New Jersey Turnpike
VS cars on turnpike

AUTOMOBILES TRANSPORTATION HIGHWAYS ROADS STREETS TRAFFIC DRIVERS FANTASY ANIMALS FREEWAYS DRIVING CITIES RURAL AREAS SCENICS SKYLINES FRUSTRATION EMOTIONS HORNS GESTURES PARKING ECONOMICS HISTORY GENERAL MOTORS SHEEP MEN WOMEN CHILDREN DETROIT NEW YORK MICHIGAN General Motors Corp. (sponsor) Traffic (congestion) Traffic Congestion Urbanism Development Cities (U.S) Cities (U.S., aerials) Aerials (cities) Aerials (freeways) Freeways Bridges Roads Streets Lake Shore Drive, Chicago Brooklyn-Queens Expressway New Jersey Turnpike Los Angeles (freeways) "Stack, The" (Los Angeles) Chicago New York City Brooklyn, N.Y. Los Angeles, Calif. Moses, Robert Interstate highway system Highways Animation Tunnels Los Angeles (aerials) Parklabrea, Los Angeles, Calif. Maps Scenics Driving Roads (potholed) Roads (bad) Potholes Construction crews Workers (construction) Public works Infrastructure Traffic jams Sheep Surrealism


Reviewer: JayKay49 - favoritefavoritefavorite - December 31, 2012
Subject: Not A Fan of Interstates
It would take people another 10 years or so to learn how to dodge freeway traffic jams by juggling through surface and even residential streets. At least ya kept on moving.

The business about farm to market and secondary highways, and the needed upgrades they talk about would take decades to tackle - way beyond the construction of the interstate system. In fact, it's only been the last 20 years or so that just about every road made up to the 1920's has finally been improved to the point that it is hard topped and maintained and has adequate signage.

I fail to see the propaganda side of this film that others have dwelled on. Seems pretty matter of fact to me - and I was around in those days. That is about where things stood as I recalled.

Contrary to "daily consumption" I think "Mrs America's" daughter had to take a pee and she was looking for some well placed shrubs to let her out of the car. A parking lot would have done no good.
Reviewer: JSBejma - - April 1, 2012
Subject: I've Got A Cheaper Solution
Less babies.
Reviewer: Gopher_Baroque - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - May 3, 2010
Subject: Ironic Seattle Viaduct snippet
There is a quick shot along the length of the Seattle Viaduct (and the narrator mentions it by name). The irony is that Washington is now having to deal with replacing that worn-out structure. But I will say I enjoy the view out Elliot Bay driving north on the top deck.
Reviewer: SkyCaptain - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 23, 2005
Subject: A stunning work of Doublethink. Patronizing and insidious. A must see!
This may be the most amazing piece of doublethink propaganda that I've ever seen. The first 12 minutes of the film are devoted to an agonizingly dumbed-down (though largely accurate) depiction of the rampant industrialization and expanding reliance on personal automobile transportation that characterized America's post-War boom. It is a situation which, as the film suggests, "Soaks everybody from the farmer right down to the family budget."

We are treated to views of highways littered with cars, a scene one driver calls "an ulcer route" and another, "agony alley." We watch as once-fertile downtown areas are razed to make room for monstrous parking structures where people "load and unload like a bunch of sheep." If it weren't for the Disneyland tone and accompanying Pollyanna background music, you might take this for an anti-capitalist environmental drama about to decry the root cause of this ailment rather than celebrate it.

At the halfway point it is revealed that, in order to solve these problems, General Motors has created a contest -- a brilliant public relations scheme really, on which the company will spend many times the $194,000 in prizes offered. GM runs ads in newspapers across the country and places editorial pieces asking the American public to help solve the "crisis" created by cars and roads. Over 40,000 respond with their earnest suggestions.

Turns out the $25,000 grand prize has already been won by one Robert Moses of New York, at the time one of the most powerful men in city. Robert Moses served as both the city's Construction Coordinator and its Commissioner of Parks and his dual commissions would later come together in a failure of historical proportions: the New York World's Fair of 1964-1965. His role in shaping (some say, "destroying") urban planning across America was also the subject of the book The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.

Give Yourself The Green Light is the best kind of propaganda film. It's just ridiculous enough to be held harmless and sufficiently facile to discourage thorough analysis. But underneath the simple exterior is a conniving, deceitful engine which drives the film to its inevitable conclusion, to the benefit of GM and the oil monopoly shareholders and nearly no one else. Namely, that more cars and more roads will fix the appalling problems with cars and roads!

Unforgettable and highly recommended.

-- D
Reviewer: adios - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 2, 2005
Subject: Gee, Beav....
Have to love the irony of all those homely shots of Main Street America - soon to be decimated by the onslaught of the superhighway, pulling trade to the urban fringe and sending cross-country traffic zipping around countless downtowns, bypassing their essential businesses.

On the other hand, all those overpasses did provide endless camping possibilities for those made homeless by the decay of the inner city....

Lord Have Mercy - it's Bob Moses, pilloried in Caro's superb 'The Power Broker' for his role as #1 promoter of urban demolition. Winning an award, yet, from GM (deserved).
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 8, 2005
Subject: Why They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot
This is another 50s film about the problem of bad roads. Since it was sponsored by General Motors, the solution, of course, is to build lots and lots more roads. Huge superhighways! Huge parking lots! Everywhere! This was supposed to solve the problem of traffic jams. Well, all the roads got built and the amount of cars seemed to expand to fit them. This is a great film for learning how we got where we are today in terms of huge freeways and parking lots everywhere. It would take building all the roads encouraged in this film before people would start to notice any downside to paving paradise and putting up a parking lot.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Reviewer: Yamamoto - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 20, 2004
Subject: 50 Years Down the road....
The ultimate in irony here. Now we have all the ginchy freeways in the film, and things are not one bit better.

I love the "Parking Hell" segment where Mom and little Suzy can't find a parking space so they can go and do their daily consumption!
Reviewer: trafalgar - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 15, 2004
Subject: Chicago
That highway going through the post office is in Chicago, and yes, it's still here. And it is excellent.
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavorite - September 19, 2003
Subject: Give yourself some more concrete!
Another one of these great films that say that more urban sprawl is the answer to our trafic congestion problems. Build more highways! More parking lots! Awesome shots of people building highway after highway. Love the highway cutting through the Detroit Post Office, wonder if that's still there. A crazy relic.
Reviewer: Steve Nordby - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 2, 2003
Subject: A paved America is a beautiful America
Another Jam Handy celebration of the wonderful automobile and its totally positive effects on life and the environment, this time in gorgeous color. This film argues that America's roads are neglected and urges public construction of city streets, country roads, super highways, and parking lots to fulfill the American Dream. Even "fabulous futuristic" highways can be "erected" by an "aroused public." American's must fight for their right to drive unhampered by lights, traffic, or school crossing guards. I'm sure this has nothing to do with the film being sponsored by General Motors. No, this is all in the name of freedom, democracy, a healthy economy, and family fun. As a construction sign at the site of San Francisco's Bay Shore freeway project tells it: "Another Freeway for Your Safety."
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